Tish Godley, supervisor for volunteer project, tells of her experience providing support to three houses that were made available to accommodate many of those who would have otherwise been sleeping on the streets in Eastbourne this winter.
Back in November volunteers were visiting the houses daily to deliver and serve food, until Covid restrictions prevented them from entering the houses. The numerous cooks began to deliver their individually portioned meals to Tish, who then spent the next few months making doorstep deliveries. Tish speaks of a relationship that has been built with the residents. During the snow and strong winds one night, the residents of one house told her they were concerned for her safety and ‘so grateful’ that she had still come out to them on such a night.
This sense of purpose has not been merely reflected in the residents of the houses but also in the many volunteers who have worked so hard behind the scenes to support this initiative. Tish comments that those cooking and delivering food say:
‘It’s so kind of you to let me help’, or ‘This has kept me sane’. It has certainly not been a one-sided process of provision, but many involved have ‘felt such meaning and direction at such an odd time’. She observes that this time has shown that ‘there is no selfless act... whatever you give you will get back’. Cooking, delivering and helping out has provided a means of giving people something else to think about and plan – ‘to take up headspace’. In addition to the meals, Tish has also had amazing cakes from friends and volunteers just left on the doorstep; she has named them ‘cake angels’!
In a year where the practicalities of the Night Shelter have looked so different, there have beyond doubt been some amazing stories of care and provision. Residents have had their own room and been able to remain at the same house rather than moving between shelters each day. This has had huge benefits in terms of a sense of ‘home’ and the practicalities of mental health support all within one place.
Tish concludes that the ‘concentrated effort’ of the agencies involved and the remarkable determination of so many has been fantastic, making a certain difference in this year of uncertainty. Eastbourne and Lewes Council have said ‘a big ‘thank you’ for the ongoing support of the Kingdom Way Trust volunteers, without whom we would not have been able to continue to deliver vital services for rough sleepers during the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.’